The Sacramento Press Club is launching a journalism awards program in January to honor the best journalism of 2020 focused on state politics and policy in California. 

Journalists around the state can enter the contest, provided their work centers on state politics and policy. While we are a Sacramento-based club, we encourage and hope to see entries from journalists beyond Sacramento. Acceptable entries could, for example, explore the effects of state policy on a city or region, or examine a regional issue that’s drawing attention in the Capitol. 

The entries can span journalistic mediums — text, audio, photo or video — except where noted otherwise. Work completed in any language can be submitted, provided the entrant provides an English-language translation. The exception is for our Spanish-language journalism category, which will be judged by Spanish speakers.

The contest will cover journalism completed between Jan. 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020. Entries will open Jan. 4, 2021, and will be due Feb. 12, 2021, by 11:59 p.m. The winners will be announced in Spring 2021. 

Entries cost $20 for SPC members and $25 for nonmembers. If the entry fee poses a financial hardship, please contact SPC about covering your entry fee at sacpressclub@gmail.com.

The awards will be judged by a panel of retired or former California journalists with experience across a variety of media. To maintain impartiality, none of our judges currently work for an organization whose journalists will be entering the contest. 

We are accepting entries in the following categories:

This award honors the California journalist whose work has had a substantial impact on the state. Journalists on the Sacramento Press Club board will accept and vote on nominations from independent news organizations or a colleague of the journalist. A nomination letter must detail, with links to published work, why the journalist should be recognized. To qualify, a journalist should have published work that reflects the best of our profession: stories that reveal egregious wrongs committed against powerless populations, that force change in public policy decisions at the state level, or that provide a powerful public service to Californians, including comprehensive coverage during emergencies. This is not a team award, nor will it be given to an institution. It is intended to recognize a singular achievement by a journalist that benefits Californians.

This category recognizes exceptional journalism that holds powerful institutions and/or people accountable for their actions and, by doing so, leads to demonstrable change that benefits Californians. The submission should include a short cover letter explaining the impact or outcome of the work. Judges will consider overall impact, depth of reporting, and the use of today’s technology to reach the audience. Entries may be in any format including text, audio or video. Entries are limited to three stories.

Decisions large and small are made each day in the California Capitol that affect the lives of the state’s 40 million citizens. This category recognizes a California journalist for their coverage of that daily drumbeat of action. Entries can include up to five examples of work that demonstrate sharp and clear writing, an important scoop, coverage of breaking Capitol news or continuing coverage of a particular topic, and an ability to explain to readers why the daily workings of the Capitol matters in their lives. Entries can cover a single topic or different issues.

California’s elected officials have enormous influence over the lives of the people they represent. This category recognizes journalism that takes a deeper look at the decisions made in the Capitol, the influences behind them and their effect on the broader public. Entries can include a single story or up to three pieces of work that cover one topic. Judges will be looking for exclusive reporting, strong writing voice and overall impact.

Public polling suggests that housing and homelessness have risen to the top of the list of issues about which Californians are most concerned. This category recognizes exceptional reporting that explains the causes and effects of the state’s housing crisis and spotlights those it has left behind. Submissions can be a single outstanding story or up to three pieces that demonstrate a command of the beat, in any format including text, audio or video.

The coronavirus pandemic exposed the limits of California’s preparation for a public health crisis and laid bare the stark impacts of racial and income inequality in the state. But public health has long been at a center of some of our biggest political fights, from a single-payer health care system to mandatory vaccines. This category recognizes exceptional reporting on public health issues including health care access, mental health, substance abuse and food security, as well as the effects of and the government response to the coronavirus pandemic. Submissions can be a single outstanding story or up to three pieces that demonstrate a command of the beat, in any format including text, audio or video

California has been at the forefront of the environmental movement for decades, and the state took an even more significant role under the Trump administration, leading the fight against the policies of the federal government. This category recognizes exceptional reporting about policy and activism related to water, clean energy, climate change, pollution, endangered species and other environmental topics. Submissions can be a single outstanding story or up to three pieces that demonstrate a command of the beat, in any format including text, audio or video.

A summer of protest over the death of Black men and women at the hands of police sparked renewed resolve in the Capitol to tackle issues of systemic racism and injustice. This category recognizes exceptional reporting about political and policy-driven efforts to combat racial injustice. Submissions can be a single story or up to three pieces that demonstrate a command of the subject, in any format including text, audio or video.

Personality can be just as important to success in politics as ideas. This category recognizes great journalism that illuminates the people who run California and those who are impacted by their decisions. Submissions can be an interview with or a profile of a politician, an activist or another figure central to a state policy issue, in any format including text, audio or video. Entries are limited to a single story.

This award is for the best single spot news image related to California politics. This could include public gatherings, infrastructure or public figures with influence on state governance.

The opinion section provides a public forum to hash out the most (and sometimes the least) important issues facing California. This category recognizes exceptional commentary that changed minds, held the powerful to account or perhaps simply delighted its audience. Submissions can be up to three opinion pieces in any format, including editorials, columns, cartoons and videos.

The newsletter award is judged on news value, sharp takes of the day’s events, scoops and original reporting, whether the letter delivers what it promises, ease of reading, design, and use of art and graphics. Issue-specific letters on such topics as the environment or public health would be considered. Entries are limited to three samples of the same newsletter.

This award is for creative online storytelling on a single California political or policy issue through any combination of data visualization, online interactive, photo, video, audio or text. This could be a single piece or a serialized story, with entries limited to five installments.

This award is for a single story or a series of up to three stories that informed California’s Spanish-speaking community about an influential political or policy issue. The story could be text, audio, video or any combination, and would be judged on news value, depth of reporting and relevance to its audience. Entries will be judged by Spanish-speaking journalists.